Carpathia III: Episode 75 - Azrael

The Palace, Zhail City

Prince Riven gently pulled on the elevator handle, bringing the carriage to a halt, slowly, on the main floor of the palace. Adell opened the gate and they stepped out together.

Adell: It's been awhile since we've gone into town.

Adell closed the gate after they stepped out.

Prince Riven: I had a notion that some ice cream would be a pleasant use of our time. One cannot, unfortunately, acquire the best in the palace, however.

Adell: Ice cream sounds great. I wonder what flavors I can get.

Adell didn't have a chance to ruminate any further. As they approached the junction to the main hallway leading to the entrance, they could hear a commotion coming from around the corner. As they turned, they found Azrael, with his back facing them and his arms spread wide. He was blocking the path of a very grumpy King Elmlund and a dirty nekohuman who Adell did not recognize. The nekohuman stood to the side, eyes fixed on the floor, and arms folded across his chest. He was wearing a curious outfit, consisting of a frilly shirt and vest, all stained from Yseri's orange soil. Around his waist, he had a pistol and knife holstered.

King Elmlund: Stand aside, you single-minded nitwit!

Azrael did not budge, defiantly standing his ground.

Azrael: With respect, Majesty, I cannot allow this guest to pass without being searched and disarmed.

Elmlund furrowed his brow and glared menacingly at Azrael, who stood as strong and steady as a stone statue. The dirty nekohuman did not move.

King Elmlund: This is my honored guest and he will not be searched!

Azrael: As you are aware, Majesty, it is my function, for the sake of all who live within these walls, to screen all guests.

Emlund moved closer to Azrael stretching himself straight to his full, considerable height. Although Elmlund maintained a dignified stature, Adell was becoming more and more certain that he was preparing for a fight.

King Elmlund: I have little interest in whatever Riven has declared to be your duties. I do not submit to you. I shall say this again and naught thereafter. Remove yourself from my sight forthwith.

Being transfixed with the conflict unfolding before him, Adell did not realize that Riven had left his side and was now stomping angrily towards Azrael and Elmlund. Riven positioned himself in between the two with his hands on his hips.

Prince Riven: Father, I must insist that you do not speak in such a manner to my security chief.

Elmlund made no further moves towards Riven and Azrael, but instead glared at both of them.

King Elmlund: Insolent whelp. If you wish to retain such thick-headed creatures in your employ, at minimum do everyone the courtesy of making sure they stay out of our way.

Prince Riven: Do recall that it was you who instructed me to hire my own staff and direct them as I see fit. Azrael is following his orders properly.

Elmlund snorted and took one step backward, folding his arms across his chest.

King Elmlund: If you insist on this obstinacy, then it appears that we are at an impasse.

Several moments of uncomfortable silence passed while Adell watched the entire exchange from afar, both amused and concerned. Despite the flowery language, he was sure that someone was going to get hurt eventually.

Finally, Riven spoke.

Prince Riven: Perhaps, if your guest were to surrender his armaments to you, Father, then Azrael should be able to allow passage. Azrael, would that be satisfactory?

Azrael: My prince, I believe that would, technically, fulfill all requirements.

Prince Riven: In that case, it is settled. If your guest wouldn't mind handing over his armaments?

Elmlund paused, audibly grumbling with each exhale. Finally, he turned to his guest.

King Elmlund: If that is what it will take to end this charade, I recommend we proceed as instructed.

The guest said nothing. He pulled out his dagger and gun and handed them to Elmlund, all the while eyeing Azrael suspiciously.

Azrael: That is satisfactory. You may pass.

Azrael moved aside and, silently, Elmlund and his guest passed without incident. As they both passed Adell, he could hear the guest whisper to the king.

Thirteen: Your security has become rather strict lately.

Adell watched as they passed and then rejoined Riven and Azrael. In the distance, he could hear the elevator gate open and close.

Adell: Who was that guy?

Prince Riven: I cannot say. Father will not tell me anything about him. When I was younger, there was another, a komodo, in fact, who was dressed similarly and carried similar armaments. Father told me nothing of him either. I have to say, Azrael, I expected that you would insist on searching the guest even after he surrendered his weapons.

Azrael: My prince, as you have instructed, I have fulfilled my duties to the technical letter. I felt no need to search him further. The guest is quite ill and of little threat.

Both Riven and Adell looked at Azrael in surprise.

Adell: How do you know that?

Azrael: He is attempting to hide his weakness, but I can sense it. It is not an airborne contagion, so there is no need to worry. I would have been able to smell it if it were.

Prince Riven: Well, this story becomes more curious. Perhaps he is here to ask Father for treatment. At any rate, we shall not likely learn more. Adell, shall we depart?

Adell: Sounds fine.

Prince Riven: Thank you for your diligence, Azrael.

Azrael placed his hand on his chest and bowed low.

Azrael: At your service, my prince.

Azrael's coat swooshed dramatically as he turned and strode back into the palace.

With the drama behind them, Riven and Adell continued on their way to the front door of the palace, where Riven had summoned a driver to wait for them.

When they exited the front doors, both were greeted by a surprising sight. Artemis and Shai stood next to the car, waiting for them.

Adell: Oh! I didn't expect to see you here. We were just going out.

Artemis folded his arms across his chest and propped his foot on the car's step board.

Artemis: I know. A little blue bird and a little green bird told me.

Riven and Shai looked at each other in puzzlement while Adell scratched the back of his head and laughed nervously.

Adell: Ha ha. Um, okay then. Well, I guess we can all go together then.

Prince Riven: Indeed. Shall we step inside the vehicle?

The group stepped in the back of the car, which contained four seats, two on each side, facing each other. Adell and Artemis faced each other on one side and Riven and Shai on the other side. Once everyone was settled, the car sputtered away, lumbering towards the palace gates and towards the town.

Prince Riven: I thought we should have a walk first.

A short time later, the car came to a halt near a boardwalk. After disembarking, the four of them strolled down the boardwalk, where there were few people.

To Adell's surprise, Riven walked ahead with Shai. They conversed in low tones, which Adell could not decipher. He and Artemis followed behind them.

Adell: So... What have you been up to lately?

Artemis continued walking straight as he glanced at Adell without turning his head.

Artemis: Easy life, I guess. Mostly, I "invent" things that already exist in Carpathia. Shai always brings me the good food from the kitchens.

Adell snickered.

Adell: Heh. You somehow managed to get Shai working for you now?

Artemis: Working? Not really. For the past few of months, he's been spending the night in my room.

Adell: Spending the ni...

In a flash, Adell suddenly realized what Artemis meant. For reasons unknown to him, he felt annoyed and a knot seemed to form in the pit of his stomach.

Adell: You mean you... and Shai... You both are...

Artemis: That's right.

Adell struggled for words, but found none. For the remainder of their stroll along the pond, they were silent with only Riven's indecipherable whispers and the sounds of the fountains to keep them company.

After their walk on the pond, they got in the car once again and this time, the driver took them to the ice cream shop that Riven promised earlier. Shai took everyone's order and proceeded to the counter while the other three took seats at a table close to the water. Adell watched the people go by and was surprised that none of them took any notice of Prince Riven.

Adell: I know we've been out before, but this is the first time with a lot of people around. I figured we'd be swarmed with people trying to get your autograph or something.

Prince Riven: It is highly likely that most of them do not know who I am.

Adell: Sounds like that's for the best. What were you and Shai talking about earlier, anyway? While we were walking along the dock?

Riven raised an eyebrow.

Prince Riven: Hmmm? Oh, you mean our little conference. We were just talking about Azrael. He's very good at his job, but I fear that his loyalties are confused. By all rights, he should have restrained both my father and his guest for disobeying his orders. As security chief, he is permitted to do that. However, he did not. Demons such as him require a master, which is me, but I worry that he thinks Father is my master. This might cause a problem in the future.

Adell rubbed his chin.

Adell: Hmmm... Can't help you there. Azrael is the only demon I've ever met.

Before they had time to mull any further, Shai returned with the ice cream. He placed the tray with the bowls on the table and passed each one out. Each was attractively arrayed in intricately designed glass bowls and garnished with colorful confectionary.

Shai: I hope this fulfills your expectations.

Prince Riven: Please try it. I am eager to learn your opinion.

Adell and Artemis each took their spoons and had a bite of the ice cream.

Adell: This is amazing!

Adell quickly took many more spoonfuls of ice cream and ate greedily while everyone else watched in amusement.

Artemis: Adell, you got some ice cream on your face.

Adell stopped suddenly and only just now realized that everyone was staring at him. He reached up and started to feel around his face, never once touching the ice cream.

Artemis: Hold still. I'll get it.

Adell put his hand down as Artemis reached up and, with a gentle and prolonged swipe of his index finger, wiped the ice cream away from the corner of Adell's mouth. Artemis then brought his finger to his own mouth and licked the ice cream from his finger little by little.

Adell blushed, entirely transfixed by Artemis's tease. Artemis smiled smugly, confident that his plan was working.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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